Santa Clara County voters who have yet to turn in their absentee ballots may do so without stepping out of their cars, thanks to new drive-through ballot drop-off locations the county created for voters' convenience.
But the five new drive-through points are off to a slow start: They have received 1,432 ballots in the two weekends they've been open. Palo Alto's drop-off box, at the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino Real, received 136. They will be open Tuesday, June 5 Presidential Primary Election Day during polling hours, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The new locations are "the major operational change" to the county's voting system since its new elections chief, Barry Garner, took over in November, said Elma Rosas of the Santa Clara County registrar's office.
Of the 546,304 voters who have opted to vote by mail, 129,436 almost 24 percent have already returned their ballots. The county has 755,117 total registered voters. Though it's already too late to guarantee that a mailed ballot will be received by the registrar's office (the deadline was May 30), it may be returned to a regular polling place or to a drop-off location.
The rest of Santa Clara County voters will have to cast their votes the old-fashioned way: by going to their local polling places. Regardless of the manner in which they are cast, all votes must be turned in before 8 p.m. or risk being discounted.
The state and county have seen a steady increase in use of vote-by-mail ballots since the California Election Code was modified in 2002 to allow any voter to vote by mail. In the gubernatorial election of 2006 there were 155,656 votes cast traditionally, and 44 percent, or 122,636 votes, came from mail-in ballots.
In the gubernatorial election of 2010, 82,364 votes were cast traditionally, and 75 percent, or 247,232, were absentee ballots.
county registrar's website.